Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland—a Republican appointed after donating $1 million to a Trump campaign committee—kicked Wednesday's round of public impeachment hearings off with not one, but several bombshells.
In a complete reversal of his prior defense of President Donald Trump, Sondland testified that a White House meeting and congressionally approved military aid were held up on the condition that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky publicly announce an investigation into Trump's political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Ambassador said:
"[A]s I testified previously, Mr. Giuliani's requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma. Mr. Giuliani was expressing the desires of the President of the United States, and we knew that these investigations were important to the President."
He added throughout the hearing that the Ukrainians weren't expected to actually conduct the investigation, but that Trump demanded they announce one, giving credence to the idea that Trump's efforts weren't about fighting so-called corruption, but about damaging the reputation of his potential rival.
Sondland also testified that Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asserting that "everyone was in the loop."
"[W]e kept State Department leadership and others apprised of what we were doing. State Department was fully supportive of our engagement in Ukraine affairs, and was aware that a commitment to investigations was among the issues we were pursuing."
The Ambassador asserted that he told Pence of his concerns regarding the hold on congressionally approved military aid, to which Pence replied that he'd speak to the President.
And this was just in his opening statement.
Ironically enough, Trump claimed Sondland's testimony would vindicate him less than a week ago.
Sondland also criticized the White House and high-level State Department employees for their secrecy in withholding records from him and the Intelligence Committee overseeing the impeachment inquiry.
Twitter was ablaze with the explosive statement.
Trump has yet to react. It's unclear what the line of defense for Republicans will be in light of these revelations.